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This Octopus Can See Light With its Skin

posted: 05/22/15
by: Danny Clemens
Octopus bimaculoides
Nathan Rupert via Flickr (Creative Commons)

The California two-spot octopus (Octopus bimaculoides) brings new meaning to the idea of 360-degree vision.

A new study from the University of California, Santa Barbara reveals that the majestic cephalopod's skin is adorned with the same light-sensing proteins found in its eyes. As such, the creature can sense light without the use of its central nervous system.

"Octopus skin doesn't sense light in the same amount of detail as the animal does when it uses its eyes and brain," said study lead author Desmond Ramirez. "But it can sense an increase or change in light. Its skin is not detecting contrast and edge but rather brightness."

Ramirez conducted his research by shining various colors of light on the octopus' skin, noting that light-induced physiological reactions took place even when the light was not directed near the creature's eyes. According to Ramirez's research, the octopus' skin is most sensitive to blue light.

O. bimaculoides isn't the only marine mollusk with light-sensitive skin, but researchers aren't sure if other light-sensing creatures' skin contains the same protein as the octopus. Ramirez now seeks to identify possible evolutionary relationships between O. bimaculoides and other light-sensing creatures. His research is published in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

Click here for more from the University of California, Santa Barbara

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